Pumpkin Doughnuts with Cinnamon Glaze

Word has reached me here in Rome that in my home state of Rhode Island, a marvelous, magical shop has appeared, by the name PVDonuts. The PV part refers to the city of Providence, where the store is located, while the donut part refers to the fact that, as you might have guessed, this is a doughnut shop. Let me cut to the chase: PVDonuts doesn't make just any doughnuts -- these are super fresh, made daily doughnuts in all sorts of flavors that change monthly and often reflect the seasons. There are classic doughnuts like glazed crueller, chocolate sprinkle, and powdered sugar, yes, but also other flavors like Chocolate Oreo, Cookie Butter, Lemon Trifle, Maple Banana Walnut, Birthday Cake, Apple Toffee, Cinnamon Bun, Dunkaroo, and Honey Sea Salt, among many, many others. PVDonuts hasn't been around long, but its doing remarkably well for itself -- I've heard that people wait in lines that stretch out the door, and not a single doughnut remains unsold at the end of the day. Its been featured in the Daily Mail, on Buzzfeed, and in Cosmopolitan magazine, to name just a few, and the founder and head baker isn't much older than me, which I find pretty cool. 

But this is the thing: I've never been to PVDonuts. Never! The last time I was in RI was for my brother's wedding, and time was short (family weddings rarely leave time for frivolous things like doughnuts). "PVDonuts!!" stayed sadly unscratched on my usual list of "places to go and people to see." The very first thing I'll do when home is make a trip to PVDonuts, but in the meantime, these doughnuts taunt me from all the way across the ocean, all the way from another continent, via their super active and ever updated Facebook and Instagram accounts. Their doughnuts are a feast for the eyes, perfectly glazed and frosted and garnished, proud and puffy and just begging to be eaten, needing nothing but perhaps a cup of coffee alongside. Have a look here:
Photo from https://www.facebook.com/pvdonuts/.
The equation went a little something like this then: the daily torture inspiration provided by PVDonuts, plus the arrival of October aka Pumpkin Spice Season equaled a doughnut craving that could not be satisfied here in Italy -- Italians do many things well, but doughnuts are not one of them -- leaving me no choice but to make my own doughnuts at home. The posts from PVDonuts about their seasonal Hazelnut Pumpkin Brown Butter Donuts, Pumpkin White Chocolate Donuts, and Pumpkin Cheesecake Donuts were, not so surprisingly, also a factor in my decision to take a stab at making my very own pumpkin doughnuts.

First things first, because I know what you’re thinking: doughnuts are actually remarkably easy to make -- really! Sure there are some steps involved, but it turns out that making and shaping doughnut dough is no harder than making and shaping the more familiar cookie dough. If you’re intimidated by a little frying, I get it, but don’t be! I conquered my fear of frying earlier this year and found that it’s really no harder than any other cooking method (tips here). On Sunday morning, I ended up with a batch of doughnuts that were rich and cake-y -- reminiscent of coffee cake, one tester pointed out -- and spiced just enough to let the pumpkin shine, scrumptious with a veil of shiny smooth cinnamon glaze over the top. They puffed up like magic when they hit the oil (it’s the little things) were a gorgeous, fiery orange color, and were exactly what one wants to be fed for breakfast on a chilly Fall day. I was pretty darn proud of them, and would like to take a moment to thank all those who ate one for humoring me as I hopped around excitedly saying things like "AREN'T THEY GOOD?! THEY'RE DELICIOUS, RIGHT?!" Ahem. And of course, grazie to PVDonuts for all the inspiration. As chance would have it, I'll be in Rhode Island this month for my umpteenth wedding this year, so it looks like I won't have to get in the kitchen for my next pumpkin doughnut fix -- see you in a few weeks, PVDonuts!

A couple of notes: If you're in Rome, you can find canned pumpkin at Castroni. If you're in Rome and you can't find buttermilk, no worries -- I used plain full-fat yogurt thinned with a tablespoon or two of milk and it worked just fine. If you go this route, you'll need the same quantity as described below (in grams that would be about 120 grams). Afraid of frying? Its really not so hard! I have some frying tips at the bottom of this post here. I recommend using a frying thermometer to test the temperature of the oil if you want to get the donuts just right. If you prefer, you can also finish these with Spiced Sugar, instead of Glaze, which is an option that Bon Appetit provided in the original recipe here. If you don't need so many doughnuts, feel free to halve this recipe, which is what I did, and ended up with about 10 doughnuts, which lasted about 10 minutes.

Want more pumpkin recipes? I've got these Pumpkin PopTarts, this Pumpkin Pie, these Pumpkin Pancakes, this Pumpkin Bread, this Pumpkin Spice French Toast, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars, this Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake, and this Pumpkin Cheesecake with Praline Sauce. Looking for more doughnuts? I've got these castagnole di ricotta, which are sort of similar.

PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS WITH CINNAMON GLAZE

Ingredients for doughnuts:
3 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour 
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (32 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125ml + 1 tablespoon) buttermilk
1 cup (225 grams) canned pure pumpkin
Canola oil (for deep-frying)

Ingredients for Cinnamon Glaze: 
2 cups (260 grams) powdered sugar
A dash of cinnamon
A few tablespoons of whipping cream or milk

Directions:
Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (mixture will be grainy). Beat in egg, then yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk; beat in pumpkin in 4 additions. Using rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions, blending gently after each addition.
 
Cover with plastic; chill the dough in the fridge for 3 hours (I chilled mine overnight just because I wanted this ready to fry in the morning). When the time in the fridge is up, sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour (or do what I did and lightly flour a clean work surface). Press the dough on the floured surface out to a 1/2 inch thickness -- this will seem quite thin, but remember all that baking soda and baking powder you added -- these will puff up like magic as soon as they hit the hot oil.
Bon Appetit Magazine, the source of this recipe, recommends the following: using a 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes. Alternatively, do what I did and cut the dough out using an empty Nutella jar (any jar with around a 2 1/2 inch diameter will do). Take the round of dough and pinch the middle with your pointer and thumb to make a hole, then stretch your fingers out a little to make the hole wider. Tada! You have a doughnut-shaped piece of dough. You won't have any doughnut holes, but I was okay with that.

However you shape them, arrange the doughnuts on your baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more doughnuts until all dough is used.

Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F.  Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Cool completely.
For the glaze: Whisk powdered sugar and 4 tablespoons milk or whipping cream to blend. Whisk in additional milk or cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to form medium thick glaze. Whisk in the cinnamon to taste. Dip the doughnuts into the glaze and arrange doughnuts, glazed side up, on racks. 
 
Let stand until glaze sets, at least 30 minutes. Makes 20-24 doughnuts and doughnut holes.
 
Recipe barely barely adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2004.










































Apple Dumplings

I'm a bit behind on my Fall cooking and baking -- its mid-October and I've yet to give you a recipe with apples, or pears, or pumpkin, gasp -- so I apologize for the delay. And nothing says I'm sorry like an apple dumpling, right?!

This post starts 5 years ago, during a trip to the Netherlands with my sister. Let's set the scene -- here I am, in the most mismatched ensemble known to man (I can assure you however that I was not cold): 
As far as trips go, this one was pretty perfect.We were reunited with three Dutch friends we had met in Bologna during our year abroad, who hosted us and showed us around Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, and Delft. I remember appreciating the break from Rome -- it was my first year there -- whose chaos, dirtiness, size, and disorder were still to be adjusted to (flash forward to 2017, and I barely notice these things now). The Netherlands, in comparison, was downright quaint, a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief. I loved how there were bicycles as far as the eye could see, the small quiet streets, the little squares,  and the food. We sampled stroopwaffel, waffle-like sandwich cookies filled with caramel, bitterballen, or crispy fried croquettes, and bread with butter and hagelslag, or chocolate sprinkles (!!!), a Dutch breakfast specialty. 

But back to those Apple Dumplings, aka appelbollen. We ordered these in a cafe after a day out in Utrecht, and I promptly discovered they were the perfect antidote to the cold weather, in a way that only whole apples wrapped in pastry and baked until golden brown can be. They were cozy, they were delicious, and of all we ate in the Netherlands, these have stayed with me most. Here we are:
Last weekend, in a stroke of genius, my memories of the majestic appelbollen paired up with a recipe from my always-and-forever cookbook obsession, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook -- Deb's peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce. The result was today's apple dumplings, an autumnal riff on that original recipe that is also a nod to my favorite Dutch treat.

So! These apple dumplings are slightly different than the ones I had in the Netherlands; like Smitten Kitchen, I used the halves of the fruit, which I think makes the pastry wrapping a bit easier and the cooking a bit faster, thus reducing the time it takes for the dumpling to reach your belly. The pastry is more on the crisp and buttery side rather than the sugary and syrupy one I had in Utrecht, but rest assured that the same coziness and apple-magic is alive and well. The pastry here is beyond flaky, buttery and just sweet enough, the perfect foil to the aromatic cinnamon-y, brown sugar basted apple within. The presentation is lovely, too, a little pastry-wrapped present, perfect topped with a bow of vanilla ice cream (and a ribbon or two of caramel sauce wouldn't hurt here, either, just saying.)

(Watch your step, apple pie).

A couple of notes: I know it might seem faster to leave the peels on the apples, but I recommend you take the time to peel them -- I did a test and left one or two with the peel (as you can see in the photos below) and found the cooked apple peel to be kind of unpleasant. I felt the filling was good here but on the simple side -- it leaves a lot of room for additions. Feel free to throw some nutmeg, ginger or cloves in to the brown sugar filling along with the filling if you want, or raisins, pine nuts, pecans, or walnuts. I meant to drizzle the filling with dulce de leche before closing up the pastry -- I even got out the dulce de leche -- but goldfish brain that I seem to have lately, completely forgot. I recommend you give it a try and then let me know how it went. If you'd like, you can eat these with caramel sauce, this pecan praline sauce, or Smitten Kitchen's Bourbon Hard Sauce (do a google search) instead of vanilla ice cream.

Looking for other apple recipes? I've got this incredible Best Ever Apple Cake (also from Smitten Kitchen) these Apple Cinnamon Muffins, this Apple Crisp with Pecan-Oatmeal Topping, and this All-American Apple Pie.

APPLE DUMPLINGS

Ingredients for the pastry:
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks of 225 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup (120ml) ice cold water

Ingredients for the apples:
3 large Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup (65 grams) dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon (14 grams butter) cut into small pieces and kept cold

1 large egg, for glaze

Vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar, caramel sauce, custard sauce -- whatever you like best -- for serving

Directions:
Start with the pastry. If you're making this by hand, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. If you're using a food processor, combine these ingredients in the bowl of the food processor with a few quick pulses. 
 
Cut the butter into a medium-sized dice and scatter the pieces over the flour. If you're doing this by hand, using your pastry blender or fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the largest of butter are the size of tiny peas. If you're using a food processor, add the butter to the flour mixture and, let the machine work the butter into the flour again in a few quick pulses, stopping as soon as the largest pieces of butter are the size of small pieces. Transfer the flour-butter mixture to a large bowl. 
 
At this point, whether you're using a food processor or doing this by hand, stir in the water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured clean work surface and knead it a few times, adding more flour if the dough feels too sticky, until it comes together. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
Next, get started on the apples. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the lemon juice in. Peel all the apples, cut in half, and remove the stems. Remove the core and seeds of each apple with a melon baller, or a small spoon and discard -- these will be the cavities where you put the filling. Put the apples as you go in the bowl of lemon-y water so they don't turn brown.
Time to assemble! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Take the pastry out of the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll into a 12x18 inch rectangle. Cut the pastry into 6 even squares. Remove one of the apple halves from the water and pat dry. Place on the center of the pastry square, pack with some of the brown sugar and cinnamon filling, and top with a bit of butter. 
 
Deb recommends you do the following in her recipe: Bring the corners of the pastry up to meet each other over the center -- if it feels tight, or as if you're short of dough, make sure that the dough underneath is flush with the curve of the apple and seal the seams together, pinching with your fingers. I didn't really follow this and just sort of folded the pastry up over the apples which worked just fine but maybe didn't look so pretty (we'll go with rustic). Do as you please! Repeat until you have assembled all six apples, placing the apples in a lightly buttered baking dish as you go. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush the tops and exposed sides of the dumplings with egg wash to make them shiny. 
 
Bake the apples for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Let the apples cool slightly and then serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, or Smitten Kitchen's recommended Bourbon Hard Sauce. Serves 6.





Recipe a riff on Smitten Kitchen's Peach Dumplings, from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.






































Spezzatino di manzo ai funghi porcini

 
While I'm pretty confident in my culinary skills by now, every so often I come across a recipe that, despite my best efforts and intentions, just doesn't come together like I'd imagined it would. The cooking time is off, the dish is bland no matter how much spice is added, or the end result is a bit blah, falls a bit short, that kind of thing. Usually when this becomes clear, I mentally adjust the blog line up for the month, calculating one recipe less, shrug my shoulders, and realize the meaning of the statement "you can't win 'em all."  

Spezzatino is a dish made with meat, usually beef or veal, cooked with wine, broth, and sometimes vegetables. The name comes from the verb "spezzare" which means to break up, referring to the fact that the meat is cut in small pieces, and is Italy's version of beef stew. I'll be honest -- this spezzatino di manzo ai funghi porcini and I got off to a rocky start. I feared I'd chosen the wrong cut of meat, as the beef seemed far too tough even after some cooking, not at all the braised beef I'd imagined; my eyes had a particularly bad reaction to the onion I'd been chopping and were streaming, making dicing the other ingredients nearly impossible; the probably 40-something year old corkscrew we had inherited when we moved into our ancient apartment broke in two pieces when I tried to open the bottle of red wine, a key ingredient; I realized I had misplaced the cover for the pot that I was cooking the dish in and thus couldn't cover it as it simmered. "Everything okay in there?" my sister asked, more than once. "IT'S FINE!" I responded "BUT MAYBE FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO EAT FOR LUNCH!"

But I had a bottle of white wine already open the fridge that I substituted for the red wine whose cork I couldn't remove; my eyes eventually stopped watering; I covered the pan with aluminum foil to stand in for my missing pot cover. And the beef! The meat cooked down the longer it cooked in the wine and beef broth -- turns out it just needed a little patience -- and became fork tender. The dish came out beautifully in the end, braised beef with lots of sweet carrots and onions and earthy mushrooms and cozy herbs, the very definition of comfort food. I feel like there's a life lesson in here about things always working themselves out in the end/patience as a virtue but I won't go all philosophical on you. I'll just say this dish was just what I wanted on a cold Fall day. It made the house smell amazing. It was made even better served over a pool of sunshine-y golden polenta with a little Parmesan stirred in. Need I go on?

A couple of notes: If you don't have porcini mushrooms, feel free to use regular button mushrooms or any other kind if that's what you have on hand (no soaking needed in that case). Fresh porcini mushrooms would be nice here too. I served this over polenta, but if you prefer you can always serve it over mashed potatoes which would be an American sort of twist, or serve with bread for soaking up all the sauce here. If you want, you could also add two or so peeled, diced potatoes to the dish in the last half an hour and let them cook with the rest of the meat and veggies. Feel free to double this recipe if you're serving a bigger crowd. Finally, if you don't want bits of rosemary floating around in your spezzatino, wrap them up in a piece of cheesecloth to get all the rosemary flavor with none of the leaves.

Looking for more Italian secondi recipes? I've got these cotolette di pollo, this parmigiana di melanzane, this pollo alla cacciatora in bianco, this polpettone al forno, these polpette al sugo, and this saltimbocca alla romana. If you want more recipes with mushrooms, I've got this polenta con funghi and these pappardelle con zucca e funghi porcini.

SPEZZATINO DI MANZO AI FUNGHI PORCINI

Ingredients:
1 1/4 pounds (570 grams) beef chuck shoulder, cut into smallish pieces (if you're in Italy, you can buy bocconcini di manzo or ask for manzo for spezzatino especially at your butcher)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly
1 celery stick, chopped roughly
1 small onion, chopped roughly
1/2 ounce (15 grams) dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) red or white wine
2 1/3 cups (310ml) beef broth
1 branch of rosemary
2 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
 
Flour, as needed
Polenta for serving, if desired -- I used this recipe here, using water as the liquid and adding about 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese at the end.

Directions:
Start with your porcini mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and fill the bowl with enough hot water to cover. Set the mushrooms aside.
 
Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large frying pan with high sides over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, onions, and celery and let the vegetables start to cook. In the meantime, drain the now softened porcini mushrooms, reserving 3 or so tablespoons of the mushroom-y liquid it leaves behind. Pat the mushrooms dry, chop them roughly, and add them and the reserved liquid to the pan with the other veggies that have already started to soften. Season everything with salt and pepper and cook a few minutes more.
 Toss the pieces of beef in a little flour and add to the pan. Cook the beef with the veggies until browned on all sides. Season a bit with salt and pepper. Next, add the wine to the pan and let it cook down, about 7 or so minutes.
Next, add the broth to the pan along with the herbs. Lower the heat on the pan and cover the pan. Let the spezzatino cook for about 1 hour and 10-15 minutes, or until the broth has cooked down and the meat, which was probably quite chewy before, is nice and tender. If you want to make polenta, you can do this while the spezzatino is cooking.
 
Serve the spezzatino hot over polenta, mashed potatoes, or as is, with some bread to soak up all the sauce. Serves 3, but we ate this all just two of us.